My mom said this to me the other day when I was asking her about what it was like to grow up in poverty.
I kept saying:
I can’t imagine living like that, sleeping on a fruit box, with rats biting you at night, with an empty, growling stomach to boot.
She looked at me.. shrugged and said:
Well… You don’t desire what you’ve never had right?
That simple statement, so matter-of-fact, really stuck with me.
Update in response to Maz’s comment below, disagreeing with this:
To clarify, my mother didn’t even know a real bed existed. Her whole world was walking to school, coming back home to lie on the crate, studying, and doing it all over again.
She didn’t know people had real furniture in houses and it wasn’t until she slept in a real bed at the age of 19 that she realized that what she had was inadequate.
She had no friends because she was so poor, but she had her sisters and brothers.
You on the other hand, were obviously exposed to a lot of luxuries and therefore you desired them because you saw them and saw people using them.
My mom never even saw any of these luxuries, it wasn’t even something that existed in her world. Even reading about beds in storybooks, she didn’t understand that their “beds” were not her crate, she assumed it kind of the same thing, because she called her crate a “bed”.
As a child, she had never desired a life that she had never experienced filled with toys, books, games, TV, lazing around and so on.
All she wanted was food, and perhaps the rats to not bite her so much at night, and a more comfortable fruit box.
(She pointed out the size to me, and if you can imagine a CRATE, that’s basically the tiny size of her bed from a kid until the age of 19.)
I’m sure she would have liked her bed to be bigger, but she was just happy she had a “bed” off the floor where the rats would really have had a feast.
She knew she was hungry, she needed more to eat, and that was all that was on her mind; that, and getting out of the situation she was in.
CAN YOU SAY THE SAME?
How many of us can really say that we have ever really wanted for anything necessary?
I can’t. I sure as heck can’t say that I have ever experienced the following:
- gone hungry involuntarily — I’ve tried fasting, and I’ve tried that fruit diet and both lasted a day
- gone without shoes
- only had one pair of socks to last me an entire year
- only had 2 outfits — school uniform and a simple dress for the entire year
- had rats or any kind of animal (not insects) bite me at night while I slept
I’ve started typing down her experiences and memories as told by her, because I think it’s important that my future kids have the chance when they’re older, to read what it was like for their grandmother who grew up in poverty.
They will grow up the same way I did — with lots of food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, schooling and so on, and I don’t want them to think that it is just the way it is.
I want them to understand there are different realities in life and especially globally, and not all of them are caused by being lazy or stupid as society might want us to feel.
That said, I will not excuse them from anything if they end up being lazy bums (here’s hoping).
I will definitely say that I consider a lot of people in a First World country to be lazy when they bitch and moan about how they can’t get ahead or have no opportunities.
I have the collective experiences of my mother and her family (and others, like friends’ parents) to tell me what it was like for them before “life became good”, which meant just having food, clean water, and more than 2 pairs of socks a year.
If you live in a First World country as a legal citizen, 99% of all of you have the opportunities available to you and it mostly boils down to determination, ambition, motivation and hard work; not necessarily smarts, education, or connections.
LIFESTYLE INFLATION PLAYS A ROLE TOO
Then there’s lifestyle inflation which I am totally guilty of. I will definitely admit that my lifestyle has grown complacent and I am well aware of it.
Try as I might to fight against lifestyle inflation (of which I am including the sheer luxury to not have to work all the time), I know my comforts have gone up dramatically in recent years.
I eat and afford better food, I don’t have to really worry about money (not until I don’t find work for the next 2 years!!), I don’t have to worry about finding a job (I can always get one), and I don’t have any debts to pay like a mortgage, or a car loan.
As a result, I am growing lax (although not TOO lax, as I am a PF blogger at heart), but will be working to combat that over time in little ways, such as stopping my purchases of ebooks now that my Swagbucks rewards have finally run out.
I will be going to the library a LOT more often (just renewed my card).
As it stands, I desire everything I have in my life, and if it were taken away (as in, I’d be forced to eat canned food), I’d be unhappy.
That’s the truth of it.